Companies and individuals known to be involved with corruption all too easily slip through the global net unnoticed. A corruption conviction in one country is no deterrent or prevention to acting corruptly elsewhere. Criminal sanctions are costly and risky to apply – but administrative sanctions are not.
The threat of exclusion from public contracts is a significant deterrent for companies: a contractor may be more likely to turn away from corruption, fraud, waste and abuse at the start of a bidding process, or decline to bid entirely if that contractor cannot safely and ethically bid for and perform the contract. A debarment sanction can bar a contractor that has already engaged in corruption during a contract from the procurement process for a specified period of time. Excluding corrupt bidders from public procurement is a significant aspect of clean contracting.
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE SUMMIT?
At the Anti-Corruption Summit the UK committed to “introduce a conviction check process to prevent corrupt bidders with relevant convictions from winning public contracts, and is committed to exploring ways of sharing such information across borders”.
In the UK’s Anti-Corruption Strategy 2017-2022 reiterates this commitment, stating that a new conviction check would “complement existing provisions in the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 requiring proof that bidders don’t have relevant convictions.”
WHAT HAS HAPPENED SINCE?
In June 2018 the Crown Commercial Service trialled additional conviction checks for bidders, the results of which are currently being analysed according to the UK Anti-Corruption Strategy: 1 Year Update. The Government committed to publishing its preferred approach in 2019, but has not done so yet.
We encouraged the Cabinet Office to publish the results of the conviction check trial and state publicly what next steps will be, including lessons learned. We urge the Cabinet Office to conduct a proper public or stakeholder consultation on the guidance produced.
The UK Anti-Corruption Strategy Year 2 Update states:
“In 2018 we undertook a convictions check trial to see if any public contracts had been awarded to suppliers with convictions specified under Regulation 57 the Public Contracts Regulations 2015. The trial found that this had not happened but did identify a range of issues relating to obtaining convictions data outside the UK. We are considering how we can resolve access to international data for vetting purposes, as part of a wider programme of work on data sharing arrangements now the UK has left the EU.”